We covered Gary Redus yesterday, today just happens to be the birthday of the man he platooned with in Pittsburgh for a time. Born on this date in 1966 was Orlando Merced, first baseman/outfielder for the Pirates from 1990-96. Merced was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1985 and he struggled his first two seasons before missing most of the 1987 season, getting into just 8 games. In 1988-89 he moved from low-A to AAA, hitting .341 in 35 AAA games to end the 1989 season. He started 1990 in the minors again but got a late June callup to the big leagues. He was sent down after one month but returned for the end of the season. He played in 25 games that year, all of them as a pinch hitter, batting .208 with one walk and one double.
In 1991 Merced finished 2nd to Jeff Bagwell in the Rookie of the Year voting, getting a first place vote, the only one Bagwell didn’t get. He played in 120 games, scored 83 runs, drove in 50 and batted .275 with 64 walks. He went just 2-9 in the playoffs that postseason, hitting a home run in game three for his only RBI. The 1992 season saw Merced get into 134 games, with a slight dip in overall production from his rookie year although he did drive in 60 runs. In the playoffs he struggled again, going 1-10 and giving him a .158 average in the playoffs with the Pirates.
Merced hit a career high .313 with 77 walks and 70 RBI’s in 1993. He slipped a little during the strike season of 1994 but came back strong in 1995 playing almost everyday and hitting .300 with a career high 83 RBI’s. The following season was just as strong, hitting .287 with a career high 17 homers and 80 RBI’s. Following the season he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Dan Plesac and Carlos Gacia in exchange for six players, the best among them being Craig Wilson, Jose Silva and Abraham Nunez. Merced hit .283 in a Pirates uniform with 394 RBI’s over his 776 games.
Born exactly 100 years prior to Merced was Frank “Frenchy” Genins, who also played for the 1895 Pirates. He made quite a living in minor league baseball back in the day, starting in 1887 and retiring in 1909. He played just three seasons in the majors, 1892, 1895 and 1901 and his season in Pittsburgh was his only full season on a major league roster. He played just 149 major league games but still had a decent season for the Pirates. He played 7 different positions, everything but pitcher and catcher. He hit .250 with 19 stolen bases in 73 games. He was the only person to play outfield that year besides the trio of Mike Smith, Patsy Donovan and Jake Stenzel, a great outfield covered by us here.
Finally, I have to mention the 55th birthday of Gary Hargis, a member of the last Pirates World Series winning team in 1979. Surely you remember him right? Pinch runner for Tim Foli in the 13th inning of the next to last game of the season? Came on with two outs and moved to 2B on an infield single by Dave Parker? Walked to the dugout after Willie Stargell struck out to end the game? He was actually in the Pirates system for a decent amount of time, signing as a 2nd round draft pick in 1974 and retiring following the 1981 season. He was a middle infielder most of his career playing the highest amount of his games at the shortstop position. He hit .273 in 812 minor league games, had some speed but didn’t like to take walks, getting just 83 free passes in his career. Few players have had shorter major league careers but think of all the people who wish they played in the majors as much as he did.